Quarter-Life Crisis: Stuck on College

07/23/2012 05:20 pm ET | Updated Sep 22, 2012

It's time for me to be open about something. I've been afflicted with a consuming disease for about two years now. It isn't contagious, but there are many other adults in their mid-20s suffering from this ailment. Researchers are still trying to find a cure. What do I have? An extreme case of I-miss-college-way-too-much-for-my-own-good disease.

Symptoms include:

  • Excessive reminiscing with college friends
  • Spontaneous crying when you hear a song that reminds you of college
  • Exorbitant numbers of photographs of college life on your desk, in your room, etc.

I can't deny it: I am obsessed with my Glory Days.

But here's my predicament. I work for the college and scholarship search website CollegeXpress, and also write/edit articles on everything college -- SATs, financial aid, academics, student life, you name it. For a girl addicted to higher education, it's a truly wonderful thing. But how can I fight this sickness while being immersed in my obsession? Can a gambling addict recover while working at a casino? Doubtful. But the difference between the gambler and myself is that I don't have plans to conquer this addiction any time soon.

And it truly is an addiction: I tailgate cars just to see what their college bumper stickers say. I took a stroll around Harvard one day just to... well, bask in the glory of a college campus. When I take the T past Boston University, I'm that awkward 24-year-old with her face plastered against the window, staring down the students with envy as they enter their residence halls. College was the greatest time of my life for countless reasons -- the learning, experience, community, and friendships -- and I'd give anything to rewind to the day when I received my acceptance letter so I could press play and live it all over again.

I am blessed to be succeeding in the face of a dreadful job economy. Unlike others, I have absolutely nothing to complain about: I'm (slowly but surely) paying off my student loans, I have a great apartment, a wonderful job, and close friends. Much of it is luck -- stumbling upon a Craigslist ad to meet roommates I cherish, or my father e-mailing me about an internship that has turned into my career. Yup, it's definitely luck. But it's also those magical four years to which I'm addicted. I entered college as an inexperienced, naïve teenager, and I left with the determination and knowledge to do something significant in my career -- and my life. I absolutely couldn't have that conviction without my experiences in college, both inside and outside the classroom.

So to the students starting college this fall, take it from a quarter-life crisis sufferer. You are about to enter the four most fruitful, enlightening years of your life. Push yourself in every possible facet: Register for classes with reputable professors so that you maintain an eagerness to learn. Skip over that daily nap to volunteer, get a job, or obtain an internship. Don't just sign up for student organizations -- lead them. These are all things that will fine-tune the engine that drives your future.

College is substantially more than just a few classes and homework assignments. It's about the education you receive from the entire package deal. And frankly, students might learn some lessons the hard way: You may not realize you chose the wrong major until you're 30. Perhaps your beer-to-book spending ratio wasn't quite balanced. Whether you encounter mistakes or triumphs, you will learn from them. The moment you become aware that each and every millisecond is a learning experience, only then will your level of preparedness vastly exceed that of your fellow students, and your reservoir for knowledge will be readily anticipating what's ahead.

If you're lucky like me, your college days will not only be filled with bliss, but they will prepare you to be the best possible 25-year-old -- and 35-, 45-, or 85-year-old, for that matter. So take advantage of every living and breathing moment in your college career. That way, when you enter your quarter-life crisis, you can look back and accept the addiction to your Glory Days knowing full well that they truly were some of the most prolific years of your life.